You might not give it much consideration, but your choice of doors greatly impacts several aspects of your home. From the obvious effects on your home’s security to its curb appeal and how well it retains heat or cool air during the more extreme weather seasons.
This, along with several other reasons, is why picking the right door for your home is paramount.
Luckily, you don’t have too many options if you’re just considering quality and materials; while there are countless designs on the market, you only have a handful of door materials that are commonly found on the market.
Today, we’re going to go over the differences between traditional – solid wood vs composite doors that are a bit newer to the market. We’ll go over the differences between them, how they stack up against each other, and which one you’re likely to get the better deal with in the long run.
Let’s get started.
Solid Wood Doors: Overview
A solid wood door is the most traditional option you can get your hands on. As the name suggests, these are simply doors that are carved from solid pieces of hardwood. The type of wood used to create a door does determine its traits to an extent. For example, a teak door is probably going to take much more of a beating than a white oak door. With that being said, the difference isn’t anything that will affect the door’s practical use. Just because you opt for something such as white oak doesn’t mean an intruder will be able to rip it right off the hinges any easier than they would a teak door.
So, there’s no practical need to focus on the exact wood species used; simply focusing on the quality of the craftsmanship and whether or not it’s truly solid is enough in most circumstances.
In general, solid wood doors are extremely durable, easy to maintain with regular repainting or staining, and they add a classic touch to the overall aesthetic of your home. They’re also great at conserving energy because they don’t allow your hot or cold air to escape too easily when you’re using an HVAC system. Not to mention, there’s something about the crisp woodiness of the sound good wood makes when your guests knock on it, and you don’t get that from a metal or composite door.
However, that doesn’t mean wooden doors are perfect. High-end wood doors are notoriously expensive, and if they’re not made properly, you can deal with some major problems. Wood grows and shrinks depending on the amount of heat and moisture in the air. If you purchase a sub-par door, it can twist, squeak, leave gaps in the door frame’s seal, and other problems. They’re also heavy and difficult to install on your own.
Composite Doors: Overview
Composite doors are relatively new to the market. They didn’t pop up until polymer really began to take off in the manufacturing industry; whereas wood has been used since humans first started building actual homes. A composite door consists of a wood core surrounded by uPVC and other synthetic materials, creating a highly durable surface and removing problems such as warping that can occur in wood doors.
Composite doors have some good things going for them, but they’re far from perfect.
First, the synthetic material composite doors are made from is practically invulnerable to wear and tear. The general bumps and accidents that happen throughout everyday life are highly unlikely to cause any visible damage. This also means you don’t have to really maintain a composite door. Beyond the door not showing general signs of wear and tear, it’s also not affected by things like sunlight and water if you just let it sit. Extreme heat can, in theory, cause issues. However, you’re unlikely to get the door hot enough for that to matter.
Surprisingly, composite doors don’t last as long despite their resistance to wear and tear. After 10-20 years, a composite door will lose its color –which is hard to fix- and will start to rapidly degrade; forcing you to replace it. In comparison, wood doors can easily last a lifetime. On the flip side, composite doors tend to be a little cheaper.
Solid Wood Doors VS Composite Doors: How They Stack Up in Practice
Our general overviews probably gave you a good idea about the main differences between solid wood vs composite doors, but how do those traits stack up against each other in day-to-day life? How will the choice affect you?
Let’s consider that choice.
As we touched on earlier, wood doors and composite doors differ drastically when it comes to their longevity. Given the fact that you probably don’t want to spend your time door shopping any more than you have to, it’s important that you find an option that will last as long as possible; it’s not only better for you, but it’s better for your wallet.
On this front, wood doors are the clear winner with one caveat; you have to take care of them. Wood doors can easily last your entire life and that of your children, but you must put in the time and effort to regularly reseal them and generally maintain them if you want that to happen. If you let it sit for decades, you’ll probably end up replacing it just as fast as you would a composite door.
Composite doors last about 10-20 years. That’s in no way a short period, but it still means that you’ll be replacing that door within your lifetime at least once.
A proper solid wood door costs between $1000 and $2000 on average. In comparison, a composite door typically costs around $1000 for the nicer models, and the low end can be well below that price mark.
However, don’t just look at the upfront investment and automatically go with a composite door. Remember that you’ll likely need to replace that door in as little as a decade. When that time comes, you’ve spent the full price of a high-end wood door. If you need to replace it in another ten years, you’ve now spent $3000 on doors. If you live in a home for 40 years, and your composite doors degrade around the 10-year mark, you’ll have easily spent $4000 on doors and had to go through the hassle of installing the new doors each time. By opting for a solid wood door from the start, you’d have spent half as much and wouldn’t have had to reinstall anything. Sometimes, the higher initial investment is well worth it in the long run.
At first, this category tends to come up as a tie. Traditional wood doors are beautiful in every regard, but composite door manufacturers can replicate that natural wood looks perfectly. So, you must, once again, look at the long-term effects of your decision.
With real wood doors, you can easily sand and paint the door whenever you want to give it a new look or refresh its paint job. It’ll take an hour at most, and you can make it look however you want. You can’t do that with a composite door. They’re far harder to paint, and it’s best to leave them with their from-the-factory paint job.
While a composite door can replicate a wood door’s appearance almost perfectly, it won’t maintain that look nearly as long. In 15 years, your composite door will likely look faded and on its last legs. With a wood door, you can sand it, repaint it, and it’ll look as good as it did on day one.
No one wants to dedicate hours of their time to maintaining something as basic as a door. The average person struggles to find time to maintain a car they rely on every day; let alone something they just expect to work without fail.
So, maintenance is a huge talking point when comparing doors, and composite doors are the clear winner in this regard.
Wood doors, as their name suggests, are made of wood. Sunlight, water, and the occasional smack as you move furniture in and out of the house are going to add a bit of wear and tear to your wood door. If you want the door to function and look great 30 years after you buy it, you’ll need to maintain it.
Typically, this means giving it a light sanding and repainting it about once a year. Doing it properly should only take an hour or two, but as we said, most people struggle to get their car in for an oil change or find time to repair a leaky faucet. That little bit of time once a year is easy to forget about in favor of much more pressing matters, and if you can’t keep on top of it, your sizable investment will quickly be ruined.
In comparison, composite doors can more or less be left alone for the duration of their lifespan. Sure, you’ll need to take it off the hinges and replace it in a decade or two, but you won’t have to do anything to it during that time.
However, there’s a caveat to that. Each year, when you perform your basic door maintenance, you can change the color or stain on your door when you have a wood door. This can allow you to easily schedule a new look around your maintenance routine, and that can go a long way towards keeping your home fresh and enjoyable. With a composite door, good luck. They’re a pain to paint, and there are no maintenance periods to open up good opportunities to kill two birds with one stone.
Before we really talk about this aspect of door shopping, you can render it completely obsolete by paying extra for professional installation. For you, DIY enthusiasts out there, or those who don’t want to shell out for the service, keep reading.
So, you’ve purchased a new, fancy door, hauled it back home, and got it near your doorway. What now? Well, depending on what door you went with, you might spend twenty minutes installing it on your own, or you and a buddy might fight with it for an hour straight.
Solid wood doors aren’t made out of birch or balsa wood. They’re made out of dense teak, mahogany, and other very heavy woods. To install a door, you have to hold it in place while securing the hinges. Doing that on your own with a door is nearly impossible. Even if you have a buddy to help, can they keep it aligned while you’re drilling? If you need two people, will you have enough room to maneuver while you secure the hinges?
In comparison, composite doors are lightweight. If you’re on the stronger side and use a bit of ingenuity, you might even be able to keep it aligned and secure it in place by yourself. Even if you’re not, a single buddy can easily hold it up while you put a few screws through it.
Again, this isn’t a major trait to consider, but it is something to think about if you plan on installing it yourself. With either type of door, we recommend getting a professional just to avoid having to retry over and over due to slight misalignments and other common mistakes.
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Which is Best?
While not entirely perfect, when thinking about solid wood vs composite doors, solid wood doors are clearly the better choice. They’re cheaper in the long run, can have their appearance changed with ease, and they just “feel” better. The initial investment is higher, you do need to put in a little work to maintain them, and installing them on your own is a pain, but those issues are either small or completely obsolete.
In comparison, the benefits provided by composite doors over wood doors are few, and the negatives can be costly or annoying.
Don’t think about it any longer – buy a solid wood door, today.